Thrush Treatment For Women

Discreetly order a fast and reliable treatment for female thrush

At Dr Felix you can find the most widely used prescription treatments for thrush in women, such as vaginal preparations, capsules and thrush cream.


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Information

Dr Samantha Miller

Reviewed by Dr Samantha Miller MB ChB
(2017, University of Glasgow)
GMC number: 7561464

Information last reviewed 28/03/2021

About

What is thrush?

Thrush is an inflammation caused by a fungal infection with one of the Candida yeasts. It most commonly affects women, causing itching and irritation around the vulva and inside the vagina, however, it can also be experienced by men. Common symptoms include redness, itching and discomfort of the vagina and vulva and a white, odourless discharge. Thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection although it can be passed on during sex.

What causes thrush?

Most cases of thrush are caused by infection with one of the Candida yeasts, most commonly Candida albicans. These fungi can naturally reside inside the vagina without causing any symptoms, and this doesn’t necessarily require treatment. Thrush arises when an overgrowth of this yeast causes symptoms. 

There are several common triggers that can increase the risk of developing thrush: 

  • Antibiotic use 
  • A weak immune system 
  • Poorly controlled diabetes 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Sexual intercourse 
  • Perfumed soaps, lotions or “feminine hygiene” products
  • Tight-fitting synthetic clothes and underwear 
  • Use of certain types of contraception e.g. spermicide 

Where can you get thrush?

In women, thrush typically occurs around the vulva and vagina, however can also extend to the area around the anus, or to the inner thighs. Men can also experience thrush on the tip of the penis or under the foreskin. You can also get oral thrush inside the mouth which is more common if you are immunocompromised, use steroid inhalers or wear dentures. 

Are male and female thrush different?

Thrush can occur in both men and women and is caused by the same type of fungus – Candida. Candida exists naturally in small numbers as part of the normal bugs that live on the skin, gut, respiratory system and female reproductive tract, and usually only causes symptoms where there is overgrowth. Thrush in women is referred to as vulvovaginal candidiasis, and in men, it is referred to as candidal balanitis.

Genital thrush vs oral thrush

Oral thrush affects the inside of the mouth. It tends to be caused by asthma inhalers, antibiotics, chemotherapy or dentures. It is also fairly common in babies. The symptoms include having a white coating on the tongue, soreness of the tongue and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Oral thrush is caused by the same type of yeast as genital thrush. Genital thrush mainly affects women, causing itching and discomfort around the vulva and inside the vagina. It can be triggered by various factors such as sweating, using perfumed hygiene products, wearing tight clothing and sex, however, it can also occur with no obvious cause.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of thrush?

In women, the symptoms of thrush may include: 

  • Vulval itching
  • Vulval or vaginal soreness, inflammation or irritation
  • A white, non-smelly vaginal discharge, sometimes described as “cottage cheese-like”
  • Pain during sex
  • A stinging sensation during urination

What are the symptoms of oral thrush?

The symptoms of oral thrush include: 

  • A white coating on the tongue 
  • A sore tongue or gums 
  • Cracked corners of the mouth 
  • Altered taste 
  • Unpleasant taste 
  • Finding it uncomfortable to eat or drink 

Thrush vs bacterial vaginosis

Thrush and bacterial vaginosis (BV) both affect the vulvovaginal area and are both caused by an imbalance in the normal bugs present in this area, but there are differences between the two. Thrush is a fungal infection caused by the Candida yeast whereas bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection that occurs if the pH balance (acidity) of the vagina is altered. The symptoms of thrush include itching, redness and irritation and it produces a white, cottage cheese-like discharge. BV causes a more watery discharge which often has a characteristic fishy smell and it can cause a burning sensation during urination but does not typically cause itching.

Treatment

How to prevent thrush?

There are several factors that can contribute to a bout of thrush. These steps can help to prevent thrush from happening again: 

  • Avoid using perfumed soaps, lotions or deodorants around the genitals
  • Use an emollient moisturiser or soap substitute instead of soap around the genitals
  • Avoid excessive washing of the genital area – once a day is usually sufficient
  • Wear clothing and underwear which allow your skin to breathe, and stick to natural fibres e.g. cotton
  • Keep your blood sugar under control if you have diabetes

How is thrush treated?

There are several treatments available for thrush:

  • Oral therapy – a single antifungal tablet (e.g. fluconazole 150mg)
  • Intravaginal pessary – a single pessary (e.g. clotrimazole 500mg)
  • Intravaginal cream – a single dose of e.g. 5g 10% clotrimazole intravaginal cream
  • Topical cream – e.g. clotrimazole 1% or 2% cream applied 2–3 times a day

How effective are thrush treatments?

Oral and intravaginal antifungals are equally effective for treating vulvovaginal thrush. In a minority of women, recurrent thrush can occur, and if this happens, it’s important to see your doctor to rule out any underlying causes such as diabetes. You may be prescribed a prolonged course of oral antifungal agents, or your doctor may wish to take a swab from your vagina to check which type of bugs are present. 

Avoiding potential triggers can help to stop frequent bouts of thrush. These include:

  • Not using any perfumed products around the genitals 
  • Reducing stress and maintaining good general health 
  • Change tampons and pads often 
  • Change underwear and wash swimwear after exercising 
  • Wipe from front to back after using the toilet 
  • Avoid hot baths or washing with very hot water 

How long does thrush treatment take?

Thrush usually clears up within a week, although it can take up to two weeks for the symptoms to completely disappear.

Over the counter vs prescription thrush treatments

Many thrush treatments are available both on prescription and over the counter. If you have had thrush before, then you can buy thrush treatments directly from a pharmacy. It's recommended to see a GP if you have never had thrush before, to make sure that it’s definitely thrush causing your symptoms.

Which thrush treatment is right for me?

Oral capsules, pessaries and intravaginal creams are equally effective at treating thrush. It may depend on personal preference and comfort which one is best. Oral capsules provide greater convenience, however intravaginal creams and pessaries may have less systemic side effects. Oral antifungal treatments are not suitable for pregnant women as they can increase the risk of miscarriage. 

What should I do about recurring thrush?

If you have recurrent thrush, seek advice from your GP. They may do further tests to find out the underlying cause and prescribe you with an alternative antifungal or a longer course of treatment.

How to prevent thrush recurring?

The candida fungi multiply in warm, moist conditions. The following steps can help to prevent thrush from recurring: 

  • Avoiding tight, synthetic clothing 
  • Using water and emollient based creams instead of perfumed soaps 
  • Always wipe from front to back after using the toilet 
  • Wear cotton or silk underwear which allows your skin to breathe

Will thrush resolve on its own if left untreated?

If you only have mild symptoms, thrush might resolve on its own. While thrush is not serious, the symptoms can be uncomfortable and it’s easily treated. 

How should I treat thrush during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, thrush should be treated with an intravaginal cream alongside the external cream for use around the vulva. Oral tablets are not suitable for pregnant women and can heighten the risk of a miscarriage. The internal cream should be applied carefully to avoid the cervix.

Which underwear is best for thrush?

Loose-fitting underwear made from natural (not synthetic) materials such as cotton or silk are best for reducing your risk of thrust, as these materials allow your skin to breathe.

What can you do to alleviate your thrush symptoms while you wait for your symptoms to resolve?

If you're having treatment for thrush it can take up to a week for the infection to clear up. The symptoms of thrush are often uncomfortable. If you have symptoms of thrush around the vulva, the use of a topical antifungal cream such as Canesten may help to soothe the itching and irritation. Be sure to drink plenty of water, which may make painful urination more tolerable. Mild painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can also be used if you are able to take these. Remember ibuprofen is not suitable for those who are pregnant. You might also want to avoid activities such as sex, hot baths and swimming, as this may exacerbate your symptoms.

Q&A

Is thrush caused by bacteria?

No, thrush is caused by a type of fungus rather than bacteria. It happens when the Candida yeast multiplies more than normal. This can be triggered by bacterial changes in the vagina. Thrush can co-exist with bacterial infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, so it might be worth having a full sexual health screen if you have symptoms of vaginal discharge. 

Can stress cause thrush?

Stress is a possible trigger for causing thrush. This is because stress can lower the immune system, leaving the body feeling run down and more vulnerable to infection.

Is thrush a yeast infection?

Thrush is a yeast infection. It is caused by the Candida yeast which usually lives harmlessly inside the vagina. It turns into a yeast infection when the natural balance inside the vagina is disrupted, triggering an overgrowth of the Candida yeast.

Do I need to get tested for thrush?

The first time you get thrush you should see your GP for an accurate diagnosis to rule out other possible causes. Thrush can often be diagnosed clinically, i.e. from your history and a physical examination, however, your doctor may wish to obtain a swab from the vagina to confirm the diagnosis. If you are successfully treated for thrush and experience the same symptoms in the future, you can go ahead and purchase your own treatment.

Why is thrush more common in diabetics?

High blood sugar creates an ideal environment for yeast to grow which is why thrush is more common in people with diabetes. If you are diabetic, your immune system may also be lower, which also makes you more likely to get thrush. 

Why do antibiotics cause thrush?

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria that cause an infection. They cause thrush because they also kill off some of the harmless bacteria which are present in the vagina which would normally compete with yeast and keep it in check.

Is thrush an STI?

Thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection but it can be passed on during sex if you or your partner has a yeast infection. Sex can also be a trigger for the development of thrush, even if neither you nor your partner has had thrush before.

Can I have sex if I have thrush?

You should avoid sex until your thrush clears up. Sex can be uncomfortable or painful when you have a thrush infection and intercourse can make the infection worse. It can also slow the progress of your treatment and risks passing it on to your partner.

How can I tell if I have thrush or an STI?

The symptoms of thrush primarily include itching and discomfort around the entrance to the vagina, redness and a white, odourless discharge. You may also experience discomfort during sex. These symptoms can be similar to those from a sexually transmitted infection. 

Other symptoms of an STI may include:

  • Bleeding between periods or after sex
  • An increase in vaginal discharge
  • A green or yellow vaginal discharge
  • A smelly discharge 
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain or a burning sensation during urination 
  • Visible blisters, sores or warts 

If you are in any doubt, then visit a sexual health clinic or order one of our discreet home testing kits to get tested.

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